what I learned from Disney World: Leadership edition - pt 2

Continuing the series I started yesterday, here is part two of 7 things I learned from Disney World: Leadership edition. (Part two "Personal Edition" can be found here)

Day 2: Magic Kingdom - Pt 2

Everyone is informed.

It'd been a while since I'd been on Disney property before this trip. My wife and I had visited before we had kids (and were pulling in income from her job and mine), so I sort of remembered certain things around the park. But the disconnect over 9+ years created me wondering where certain things were in the park that I wanted to show the kids.

Like while we were eating, I had a question about the nighttime fireworks and electrical parade. I asked the gal behind the fast food counter, "Where can I find out information on tonight's schedule?" I imagined she could direct me to some information booth where I could ask or some Disney manager in a slightly different coat color. Instead she replied, "I can help you. What would you like to know?" I was rather surprised at her detailed knowledge, for instead of having to talk with someone else later I was able to get my answer then.

I figured this was a fluke. Maybe she was just some Disney die-hard who knew stuff other people didn't.

Only it kept happening. Several times throughout our visit, I'd get an answer to a question I figured was beyond that person's "pay grade." I'd wonder where an attraction was - like the famous Dumbo ride -and the nearest person with a nametag could tell me in great detail where it was or where it had gone (and what had replaced it). We even showed up to Disney wearing our own Mickey shirts (versus buying an expensive one at the park), and we had a photographer tell our boys about the significance of the number "28" on their shirts - the ones the park didn't even sell. Or there was the ornament shop gal (who writes special words on plastic globes with amazing caligraphy) who was able to give us an amazing insider's scoop on where to sit for the nighttime parade. Then there was the janitor who was able to look at a digital picture I showed him and help me know exactly where in the park it was located.

This can't be easy to accomplish with the thousands and thousands of people Disney employs. What is expected is more than the repetitive task that their job requires, but they are literally expected to be a "host" to the entire guest population that day... as if they were the only host. It's as if the concept of "it's not my area" or "I don't know, so have fun figuring it out" are intentionally trimmed out of the mental vocabulary of every "cast member."

I started wondering how often the people I serve as a pastor depend on me to have all the answers. There is much happening around our church, for instance, that has someone else's hand on the steering wheel instead of my own. When I'm asked about it, though, I'm expected to know the details of it as if it was my idea. Maybe you can relate in whatever area of life you serve in - be it your household or the cubicle world you take part in.

We all know this is not fair, and I think we give each other an unconscious nod that "nobody knows everything." But have you ever noticed the difference when you do know the answer to a question? There is a sense of empowerment and resolution... much like when I greet someone by his/her name versus the generic, "Hey, buddy, how ya' doin?" Really, I'm lying that I know who they are... and a wooden puppet bamed Pinnochio already taught us that lying only leads to a splintered identity.

Again, we can't know everything... but when it seems like we do there is an increased respect for the organization and credibility is gained when a legitimate question mark occurs in the future.

Out of the 100+ times I asked a Disney employee a question, only twice did they not know the answer. But they knew who to direct me to and made sure I found that person. And even if they didn't, they got it right 98% of the time. That's a great percentage, and I think being known as someone who is informed means your organization stands out. We're not talking about anything more here than simply being willing to immerse yourself in the relationships and environment you serve in... which is hard, ugly work when it's much easier to sum someone up quickly into a tidy little category that seldom lasts.

Because there's a difference between saying "I don't know" when you're dealing with something great and grand and mysterious by nature - something like God who truly deserves an occasional "I don't know" - versus saying "I don't know" because you were too lazy to invest yourself in "knowing."

Three quick tips that have worked for me over the years:

- Carry a calendar with you that fits in your pocket. When you meet someone new, write down their name on the day you met them and a detail to remember. Review it at the end of each day for three days and when you head back into an environment you might see them.

- Whatever your specific role is at work, find someone outside your direct circle and learn what they do. A five-minute hallway or watercooler conversation can help you learn something valuable that furthers the whole organization forward in a pinch when you have an answer to a question and "so and so" isn't around. You are "so and so."

- Learn the names of your neighbors... all of them. Make a map if you have to, because some day there will be a chance to connect and you'll be ahead of the curve. Or if an emergency goes down, you will know who to contact. The conversations you have beforehand will create the healing that happens in a crisis.

- Part 3 tomorrow.

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